Compelling news from the refugee and migrant sector
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Cities must prepare for mass migration – report

16 May 20171 comment

The world´s cities need to be better prepared to cope with a spike in mass inflows of people displaced by conflict and the effects of climate change, according to a new report.

A paper by the global network of cities known as ‘100 Resilient Cities (100RC), which includes Melbourne and Sydney, says cities must work to lessen the shock to “fragile urban eco-systems” by improving how they accommodate, integrate and provide work for migrants.

“Cities must meet the crisis head on, and seize this critical opportunity to become more resilient by implementing creative solutions that uplift struggling populations and build greater social cohesion,” the report said.

Globally, the total number of international migrants is now nearly 244 million, the report says.

This includes a record 65.3 million people forced from their homes by conflict and persecution worldwide. The report says a further 200 million could be displaced by climate change by 2050.

The vast majority of the world´s migrants have settled in cities, with over 90 percent of immigrants in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia based in urban areas, where they can more easily blend in and draw on support from migrant networks, said the report.

Cities will face problems relating to health, security, water scarcity, community cohesion and disaster risk if they do not take steps to address rising population density, according to the report, which stressed that cities should aim to take full advantage of the socio-economic benefits migration offers.

“The mass migration we are witnessing today is not a temporary state of emergency, but the beginning of a new reality,” said the report. “Rather than resist this new reality, cities must embrace it,” the report said.

With unpredictable migrant flows – whether triggered by conflict, natural disasters or economic crises – cities need to be ready to accommodate waves of new arrivals, said the report, which analysed the impact of migration on cities including Athens, Medellín, Amman, Los Angeles and Paris.

Some cities are lowering the barriers to work by improving migrants´ access to financial services and offering training schemes or cash-for-work programmes, said the report.

The resulting economic benefits include tax contributions and jobs created by migrant businesses, it said.

“Migrants make clear economic contributions to destination cities, refuting common misconceptions that they detract from the financial health of their new homes,” the report said.

Cities need to push for more central government funding and promote greater private-sector involvement to cover the increased cost associated with migrant arrivals and policies for infrastructure and affordable housing should also be adaptable, the report said.

It cited the example of Athens which struggled to cope with the arrival of thousands of refugees fleeing the war in Syria. There, some rent subsidies were provided to allow migrants to move into central parts of the city with access to key services and support networks.

“While we have managed `the crisis within the crisis´, our biggest challenge remains how to successfully absorb newcomers in our society,” wrote Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis in the report, explaining that migrants could help counter-balance Greece´s population decline.

Some refugees in Paris have been housed in private homes rather than reception centres, in a bid to help them integrate more quickly and find jobs, the report said.

The report said urban infrastructure planning needed to factor in rising migration.

It said Amman, in Jordan, was investing in its waste management sector to cope with a 25 percent increase in waste generated in the Jordanian capital, now home to large numbers of Syrian refugees.

“As mass migration challenges our cities in unprecedented ways, we must work to incorporate it into our visions for a resilient future,” the report said.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist